Helderberg Hilltowns Association

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2013 Discover the Hilltowns—Farms and Artisans Tours

Saturday, September 14, 10:00-4:00
Sunday, September 15, 10:00-4:00
Self-guided tours through the Hilltowns of Berne, Knox, Rensselaerville, and Westerlo.

Visit http://www.HillTowns.org for schedules and maps.


Thanks to the efforts of John Elberfeld the Helderberg Hilltowns Association now has its own wiki site at http://www.hilltowns.org/. Its major focus on providing lists of:

  • Hilltown Products and Services
  • Hilltown Resources - where to shop in the hilltowns.
  • Hilltown Recreational and Cultural Acivities
  • Recreational and Cultural Resources: Libraries, museums, historical societies, nature centers, parks and wildlife preserves
  • Upcoming events
  • Information on Helderberg Hilltowns projects

HELDERBERG HILLTOWNS ASSOCIATION

Promoting Farms, Trade, Culture and Recreation of the Hilltowns

The Helderberg Hilltowns are home to farms, hiking trails, historic sites and some of the most beautiful views in the Capital Region. Farm stands, such as Newcomb’s, Whipple’s, Fox Creek Farm, Garden of One’s, Morning Fog’s and the Patroon Land Farm’s, provide fresh produce in season. Several of the farms also offer Community Supported Agriculture shares for individuals who would like to support farming and share in its bounty. The Long Path, Thacher Park, Partridge Run Wildlife Management Area, Wolf Creek Falls Preserve, and of course the Huyck Preserve are just a few of the recreation areas that offer opportunities for healthy outdoor fun. The hamlet of Rensselaerville, if you haven’t heard, was recently named one of Seven To Save by the Preservation League of NYS for its remarkable historic architecture. And the Helderbergs were a focus of the Anti-rent Wars of the mid-19th century.

The Helderberg Hilltowns Association is committed to preserving the natural beauty, agricultural productivity, recreational opportunities and historic features of the hilltowns by promoting their economic vitality.

Heritage tourism, agri-tourism and providing recreational destinations for Capital Region residents are major opportunities for the entire Helderberg area. Most recreational land uses are relatively low impact activities, and so are gentle on the environment; by their very nature, they can help preserve the pastoral rural countryside, rolling hills, meandering creeks, waterfalls and forest land. That is, they provide opportunities for sustainable economic development.

GOALS

The Helderberg Hilltowns Association (HHA) consists of neighbors from Berne, Knox, Rensselaerville, and Westerlo working together to help preserve and promote local farms, businesses, and organizations. HHA is committed to:

- developing a unified Hilltown presence
- cultivating a vibrant local economy
- safeguarding our rural culture and heritage
- encouraging stewardship of our agricultural lands, forests, and open spaces.



“Helderberg Escarpment Planning Guide” recommendations:

Dan Driscoll, Town of Knox Planning Board, has been instrumental in getting the association off the ground. It is no coincidence that several years ago Dan helped author a planning guide to protect the Helderberg Escarpment. Now the HHA is promoting the implementation of the following recommendations of the “Helderberg Escarpment Planning Guide”:

  • Help farming survive in the area… encourage and promote the sale of locally grown produce through farm markets and local stores.
  • Map existing public trails and develop plans to improve and connect trails; develop a regional trail system interconnected with the Long Path.
  • Publish a tourism map for the area.
  • Inventory historic and cultural sites, such as houses, barns, family cemeteries, stone fences and consider the use of easements, historic districts, and economic incentives to private owners to preserve sites and structures of greatest importance.
  • Tourism related business should be encouraged to respond to the opportunity presented by the thousands of visitors to the Hilltowns each year.
  • Provide recreational opportunities for the Capital District area. Most recreational land uses are relatively low impact activities, and so are gentle on the environment; by their very nature, they help preserve open space; and they provide opportunities for economic development.

These recommendations will be most effective if the individual towns work with one another to apply the recommendations uniformly to the entire Helderberg region. Towns are authorized to cooperate in this way; they need to join together to create comprehensive land-use plans, develop uniform regulations, create inter-town overlay districts, and even contract with each other to administer and enforce land-use regulations.

MEMBERSHIP

Membership is open to anyone who shares the goals of the organization.

MEETINGS

For information on meeting email Zenie Gladieux at zeniegladieux@gmail.com

Fall Report

Happy Fall to All!

As an organization we're becoming busier and more visible, and it's going to get even better.

  • Long Path North - A short note from Gerry Chartier gives an update on the idea to connect the Long Path North to future trails on the Buddhist Retreat Center (Tenzin Gyatso Institute) on Game Farm Road. Jonathan & Ryan of the Center, Jon Kusler of the Berne Conservation Board, Mike Willsey of the LPN, and Gerry Chartier walked the DEC forest trails beginning from the shale bank parking area on Irish Hill Road. We "rediscovered" the old roads linking Irish Hill Road to Game Farm Road. There was agreement that the link will be easy to accomplish with a minimal amount of work. This area is extremely scenic, with relatively open mature forest cover with a wetland/stream network, and offers walking and Nordic skiing opportunities. Should we be exploring further either forming a work crew to get going on this or coordinating some other groups to take it on?

Winter Report 2011

On April 28, 2011, John Elberfeld explained to about 30 members and friends of the Guilderland Historical Society how he did the necessary research to learn about the history of his house at 66 Beebe Road, Knox, and its previous owners. The general purpose was to encourage members to discover the resources available from Hilltown libraries, historical societies, and museums. John has posted much of the information he found on this web site. For example, visit Lot 65-K, Charles E. Beebe, and David Van Auken. The Altamont Enterprise wrote up his efforts in the article Knox couple research the history of their home on April 28, 2011. John is willing to do his presentation for other interested groups. Contact him at JElberfeld@AOL.COM.

Spring Report 2011

Many HHA members participated in the public discussions concerning the redistricting of the Hilltowns for County Legislature representation. Visit Members in County Redistrict Debate to learn more.

FUTURE PROJECTS?

  • Hilltown Community Market started at the Berne Mason's Lodge in June of 2012. It closed in October of 2012 for the season, but plans on opening again in June of 2013.
  • Visitor brochures and maps
- Farms and farm activities.
- Natural areas and trails.
- Historic buildings, sites and cemeteries.
- Drive-it-yourself tours.
  • Historic Preservation:
- Begin the long process of making an inventory of historic homes in the hill towns with the goal of someday having a historic district in every hamlet and a plaque on every home.
- Inventory of historic cemeteries.
- Inventory of historic mill, factory, and dam sites.
  • Trails - Create a trail committee to consider extending trails to connect existing nature preserves.

PROGRESS REPORT:

- The Edmund Niles Huyck Preserve and Biological Research Station has an extensive trail network. Over the next two fall seasons a new six-mile foot trail will be created in the northern 1,200 acres of the Huyck Preserve, Rensselaerville. This trail will connect the current trail system with the State’s Long Path in Partridge Run NYS Wildlife Management Area, Berne.
- There is a great idea to connect the Long Path North to future trails on the Tenzin Gyatso Institute Buddhist Retreat Center on Game Farm Road. Last Friday, Sept. 24 Jonathan & Ryan of the Center, Jon Kusler of the Berne Conservation Board, Mike Willsey of the LPN, and Gerry Chartier walked the DEC forest trails beginning from the shale bank parking area on Irish Hill Road. They "rediscovered" the old roads linking Irish Hill Road to Game Farm Road. There was agreement that the link will be easy to accomplish with a minimal amount of work. This area is extremely scenic, with relatively open mature forest cover with a wetland/stream network, and offers walking and Nordic skiing opportunities. Should we be exploring further either forming a work crew to get going on this or coordinating some other groups to take it on?
  • Scenic byway - create a designated scenic byway. Imagine a loop from 85 and Delaware Ave (Rt. 443) that could run through Westerlo, Rensselaerville, Berne and Knox and ends up at Thatcher Park. This is the kind of low impact visitors that could support economic vitality along the route in a coordinated way and encourage the community to sustain the "scenic" and "open space" character of the rural landscape in the hilltowns. (Thanks to Chad Jemison for this idea).
  • Promote local produce - Create a committee to support local farms by promoting the buying of local produce.